The LG OLED B1 sits in an all-white media cabinet.

Not including the painfully luxurious living room…
Image: LG / Amazon

If you haven’t already heard it from every other publication on the planet, today marks the beginning of Prime Day, the annual capitalist ritual in which Amazon shoves every working class person into a closet and steals their lunch money. Although most of the propaganda is complete bullshitfor example, there is a diamond in the rough like the rare TV with a variable refresh rate (VRR) feature.

Wait, what does “variable refresh rate” mean?

Ugh, I know. First it was “teraflops”. Then there were “solid state drives”. This console generation really is turning us all into tech geniuses!

Simply put, “refresh rate” refers to how often per second the display refreshes itself, like the frame rate of a gaming console. Think of it this way: A modern game console, for example Sony’s PlayStation 5 or Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, typically produces 60 individual images or frames per second. To match that, you’d need a screen that refreshes 60 times per second.

The math is as simple as math gets, even mapping one to the other; A 60hz display can display 60 frames per second, a 120hz display can display 120 frames per second, and so on. too away, because a world where 240 fps is the standard is nauseating).

If the refresh rate of the TV and the frame rate of the console match, you get a smoothly displayed image. But come on, you’ve played a modern game. You know frame rates are not always constant. TVs without variable refresh rate are not fully equipped to handle this.

A display with a static refresh rate—for example, a display locked at 60 or 120 Hz—is prone to lag, flickering, screen tearing, and other visual oddities. One with variable speed, however, can automatically adapt to the output of frames from the game console. Let’s say you’re playing Marvel’s Avengers or another buggy game and the framerate drops through the floor. A TV with a static refresh rate of 60 Hz still refreshes 60 times per second. However, with VRR, the TV will quickly adjust to make sure the display matches the image being broadcast by your game console. The variable refresh rate doesn’t completely prevent any visual hiccups, but it does give the screen a road smoother image than standard screen.

Variable refresh rate is a fairly common feature on high-end PC displays these days, but less common on most living room center TVs. Worse, many of the TVs that come with variable refresh rates are, I don’t know, almost 10 percent of a month’s rent for a studio apartment in today’s market.

One of those TVs LG OLED B1. Right now, it’s down 37 percent for Prime Day, organized by a company that regularly violates anti-union laws, at least according to the organization’s filings. National Labor Relations Board. LG’s OLED display is universally regarded as one of the best gaming TVs on the market. It’s also — and this pains me to even type — about $2,200 for the 77-inch model.

It’s on the other side TCL 6-Series QLED. The 65-inch model is currently on sale for Prime Day for $700. It’s not nearly as stylish as LG’s top-of-the-line display, but it gets the job done. (I have a similar TCL TV at home, though without the variable refresh rate. It’s… good.)

At the end of the day, no need TV with VRR. But it’s nice to have.

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